Jan 31, 2013 - THOMAS FAMILY SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS (Brandon Thomas case)

 

It’s been nearly two months since mother Kim and daughter Kayla Thomas lost the person they call their rock, the one person that could pick up their chins when they were down.

But after Brandon Thomas’s life was taken in a senseless alleged drunk driving crash on Dec. 6, the Thomas family doesn’t feel any closer to justice, any closer to having their questions answered.

On Jan. 24 as Kim and Kayla exited the Cochrane Provincial Court House, they did so without seeing the accused for the second court date in a row, with no questions answered, no reason why, no guilty plea, not even a word as to what was going to happen next from the Crown Prosecutor. Just empty feelings and more frustration than you could shake a stick at.

“We can’t get anyone to talk to us--the Crown, the lead investigator, no one. We just want them to let us know where we’re going. This is Brandon, this is our family and we have a right to know where the case is sitting and what to expect so that our world isn’t shattered even more when we go into court next,” said Kim Thomas.

The next court date has been set for Mar. 7. The Thomas family and their supporters are in a state of disbelief, said Kim, that something like this can take so long while 22-year-old Ryan Gibson, the person accused of allegedly killing their teenage brother and son, walks the streets.

“I would like some information on how things are progressing. Even if there isn’t any progress, at least call and tell us that,” said Kim.

These days, Kayla said, she and her mom don’t sleep much. Thinking about 17-year-old Brandon has been all consuming.

Born October 8, 1995, Brandon was a fighter from birth. He was not only five weeks premature, but also an undiagnosed celiac from birth. He spent much of his youth sick and left doctors scratching their heads as to what the problem was. Kim didn’t know why and after 10 years, the diagnosis came.

“The doctors didn’t know, we didn’t know what, but Brandon was sick a lot as a child and we found out years later that he was celiac since birth,” she said.

“But when he wasn’t sick, Brandon was a true boy. He loved his bike, he loved racing down the sidewalk with his long curly hair flying out of the sides of his helmet,” said Kim. “He was fun friendly and just a typical little boy.”

Since they were kids, Kayla said she and her brother were best of friends. Sharing the same social circle bothered neither of them and that’s the way they wanted things to be, she said.

“Brandon and me were best friends,” said Kayla. “We hung out with the same group of friends, we’ve always been best buddies.

“He tagged along with me when we were little and I never minded, I never cared. And when we got older, he got more popular and let me tag along with him all the time. He never minded it,” said Kayla.

For a parent, there might not be any greater sight than seeing your kids enjoy each other’s company. For Kim, it’s something she said she always worked hard to instill in both of them.

“My greatest joy in life are my two children,” she said. “To know that they got along as children, that they never really fought makes me proud. Not very many siblings are like that and I know that the reason they were like that is because I gave them the tools and values. But they chose the people they became and I’m proud of that.”

Brandon looked up to his big sis a little more than she even knew, as she later found out. “Me and Brandon had a few times when we got into trouble, nothing too serious, but we have some good secrets that’ll stay between just us,” said Kayla. “It’s silly, but Brandon was always worried about what I would think.

“One of his friends told me that when they would skip a class sometimes to go hang out at Mitford Pond between classes, he’d say, “don’t tell my sister okay? Don’t tell her,” not worried about my mom because it was ok to tell mom, but I would give him heck,” she laughed.

A grade 11 student at Cochrane High School, Brandon was a young man who knew where he wanted to go in life from an early age. From an early age, he could pick what model a car was just by its headlights, said Kayla. That knack soon grew into a life long dream to work with cars.

Despite learning disabilities, Brandon pushed hard in school and with the help those around him, was on track to graduate, with hopes of heading to SAIT Polytechnic to become a journeyman auto-mechanic. Brandon could have worked full-time hours at his mechanic job but he said that he wanted to finish high school so he could go to SAIT, said Kim. “He worked his butt off and it was going to pay off for him.”

Always one to keep in touch with his mom, Brandon was excited about leaving work in the city on Dec. 6. Just days away from a Christmas party with his work buds, Kim said that Brandon was full of excitement. But when Brandon stopped answering phone call after phone call and text after text, Kim got worried.

“Me and my boyfriend Mike (Benard) go to archery classes every Monday and Thursday from seven to nine,” said Kayla.
“That night we left at around seven and there wasn’t great cell service, but I noticed a message from mom, I could barely understand her on the phone.”

Kim said she had a worried feeling when Brandon didn’t make it home before Kayla and Mike left for archery. Maybe he had been in a fender bender, maybe he was hurt. But the maybe’s turned to empty gasps at roughly 8 p.m. when Cochrane RCMP came with news that no parent ever wants to hear.

“I could barely understand my mom, but she just said get home safe. I asked what was wrong and she said it’s something to do with Brandon… Brandon’s been in an accident. Mike put the peddle to the floor and when we showed up, the RCMP were already there,” Kayla said. “The way the officer looked at me, I knew that Brandon wasn’t coming home,” she cried.

RCMP reported a 2006 Chevy pickup was headed southbound in the northbound lane of Highway 22 just south of Cochrane around 6:10 p.m. Thursday Dec. 6, when it forced two other vehicles off the road, one rolling three times in the ditch.

The 23-year-old woman in the rolled vehicle suffered only minor injuries. The pickup then collided head-on with a Subaru Impreza driven by Brandon. Firefighters cut the teen loose from his crumpled vehicle and STARS air ambulance was summoned, but Thomas died at the scene.

The 22-year-old man who was allegedly operating the pickup wasn’t injured and is now charged with six criminal offences, including impaired driving and causing death while driving over .08, said Sgt. Audrey Robinson of Cochrane RCMP.

“The only way we’re going to keep Brandon’s story alive, his spirit alive, and keep people safe is if we talk about it,” Kayla said.

On average, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD Canada), close to 1000 people are killed every year due to drunk drivers. Some people and news outlets have referred to it to as an accident, said Kim, but someone allegedly chose to drink and get behind the wheel. That’s not an accident.

“Any time someone drinks and gets behind the wheel, they’re making a decision,” she said. “Maybe we can help to make an impact on people that might choose to drink and drive. Brandon isn’t here to fight, so we have to fight for him,” said Kayla.

“No one is safe when you drink and drive. I taught my kids not to drink and drive, to watch out for other people on the roads, because it’s not only them on the highway and it still didn’t save Brandon,” said Kim. “He made the right choices as a responsible driver and he’s still not here because people aren’t getting the message.

“How many more kids’ parents are going to have to go through this?” asked Kim. The Thomas family hopes that Mar. 7 will finally be their day to see the face of the person they hope will be found criminally responsible for taking away a bright future. But when they do, they said they’ll have little to say to him. Only a message that forgiveness isn’t something they are even remotely considering.

“Brandon was sentenced to death, we’ve been sentenced to a life without him and there shouldn’t be a consequence-free situation for the person responsible for this,” said Kim.

“I wish I wouldn’t have ever heard the name Ryan Gibson. Why did he make the decision he made? How can he live with himself, knowing that he took our love, our strength and our rock from us,” said Kayla and Kim.

In the wake of the tragic events, the Thomas family said that they have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support that the community of Cochrane has shown to them. Be it through candle light vigils or a kind word, nothing has gone unnoticed, said Kayla.

“It’s amazing to see how much support we have and I’ve gained a lot of respect for Cochrane and everyone in this community,” said Kayla. “I want to spend my life here, I want to raise my kids here when I have kids. “He was always the first one to give me a squeeze when I was sad and tell me it’s going to be OK and I don’t have that any more,” Kayla said.

Times have continued to be tough for the self-employed single mom and her young daughter, but they said they’d keep pushing through. Friends have set up a trust fund for the Thomas family and donations can be made through any ATB branch.

The Thomas family has also asked that those interested go to bradkolethad.com and click on the Families for Justice petition link on the home page. Printing the full petition and collecting signatures will help Families for Justice send a message to Parliament Hill that driving under the influence is not acceptable and needs stiffer penalties, said the website.

 

A memorial to the life of Brandon Thomas, a Cochrane youth who was killed by an alleged drunk driver, sits in the home of his mother Kim and sister Kayla as a reminder of the promising future the 17-year-old had.

 

Source: Cochrane Times


 

 

Last updated on: 2013-01-31 | Link to this post